The Joys of Scat Identification

The Joys of Scat Identification
ruffed grouse scat

Can you tell what kind of animal left this scat?

It would not be unusual to find me outside, taking photos of poop. Maybe poking through it with a stick. Whether you think it’s a disgusting practice or not, one can glean a lot of information from crap. Firstly, and most interestingly, it can tell you what kind of animal has passed by. Hunters, for example, get super pumped when they happen across certain types of dung (generally when it belongs to the species of animal they are hunting).

Secondly, it can give you some clues as to what the animal was eating. The shape, color, and size of the droppings can change with the animal’s diet. ┬áSometimes it may be obvious what the animal was eating; you may be able to find seeds that you can identify, hairs, or bones. You may be able to tell if the animal has been eating a good deal of fruit. This is helpful if you’re trying to find that species of animal because you can look for the types of food it has been eating in an attempt to find it.

Scat may also be able to give you clues about which direction the animal was traveling in. Sometimes animals may walk and poo at the same time, leaving a trail of “breadcrumbs” for us to follow, if you will. Or, if all the turds are in one pile, just bend down and touch your tongue to it to determine the direction of travel.

You didn’t really fall for that one, did you?

You may be able to tell if the droppings are fresh. If it’s cold out, they could be steaming and indicate that the animal had passed by frequently. Or, they could be starting to deteriorate, indicating that the poop is not fresh, or perhaps that it has rained since the scat was deposited.

Scat Identification

Were you able to identify what kind of animal left the pile of scat in the photo above? Let me give you a hint – it was found in the Minnesota woods, in a mix of young growth and older growth forest. Here’s another hint. Take a look at the whitish tint a lot of the turds have on them. This may remind you of other animals that make whitish poop…birds! If you can’t tell the size of the droppings, they are about an inch in length. This indicates a larger bird.

Ok, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll let you off the hook. It’s Ruffed Grouse scat!

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